A vigorous, funny account of the effects of blighted romance cured, sort of, by a course in belly dancing.
Now an English teacher to troubled teens, newcomer Soffee recalls growing up in Richmond in a household dominated by her father's unpredictable but staunch Lebanese family. After a stint in California as a rock-star gofer (with all of the drugs and sex that implies) and alcoholism rehab, she slouched back home, her heart broken by a tattoo artist. After months of self-pity, over the protests of friends and family (“Your daddy ought to smack your face,” said great-aunt Frances), she enrolled in a belly-dancing class. Her rationale was to preserve her heritage, her real motive was never entirely clear, but she exulted in it. Part of the pleasure came from her new cohorts, mostly 30- to 40-year-olds with wide hips and convex bellies. (No pressure here to be supermodels.) Once into the world of belly dancing, Soffee describes her adventures in show biz: entertaining at nursing homes, at private parties (delivering “bellygrams”), at county fairs, and, memorably, at redneck bars. She shops for costumes, attends workshops and conventions, and waits breathlessly for the performance of a fabled Egyptian who dances with 12 lighted candles balanced on her head. Caught up in the ethnic wave, Soffee spends hours on the Internet tracking down potential Arab mates, only to discover that belly dancers are regarded not as guardians of an ancient tradition, but akin to strippers and prostitutes. Soffee gives a rousing defense of serious belly-dance students and performers, announcing a happy ending as she finds love with an gun-toting Aryan who honors her belly-dancing commitment by presenting her with a snag-proof engagement ring that wouldn't “get hung up on your veils.”
Spirited and engaging, even for those who don't have a yen to undulate.